Banning Books

I have loved reading from a young age, making use of my school library and later frequenting my local public library. I read widely and my parents paid little attention to what I was reading. In the town I grew up in, I have no recall of any objections to specific books but it was the late sixties, early seventies so I suppose it could be something I was unaware of. Early on, I remember reading biographies, Nancy Drew mysteries, lots of other fiction, less non-fiction, way too many Harlequin romances as a young teen, and some quality fiction -probably assigned in school.

I’ve continued to love books of all genres (now in all formats), and when I had young children in the eighties and nineties, I hoped they would develop a love for reading as well. Their dad read to them most nights, and I made bi-weekly trips to the library and let them explore the stacks on their own and, to be honest, paid little attention to what they chose.

With three librarians in my family (sister, two daughters) there have been the occasional discussions over the years regarding censorship, and more recently, the trends in efforts to ban books in school and public libraries. I recall many years ago – before I had high school age children – an acquaintance asking that her child be found an alternate book to the summer reading assignment choice that this parent objected to. What an idea — requesting that there be another choice for one’s own child vs. banning a book for all students.

My daughter recently posted on Facebook about the efforts of book banning in her own community, along with her memories of trips to the library as a young person. (public entry 5/18)

From her entry:

“… I’m eternally grateful that they never limited us when it came to books. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the public library in Orange, Virginia, where I learned to love reading (and libraries!), and I was allowed to explore wherever my interests led me, including the *adult* section. Maybe my mother’s own passion for reading made her more permissive, or maybe as long as we were READING, she wasn’t too concerned about the content. Or maybe raising four kids meant she didn’t have the mental energy to monitor every book we checked out, who knows. 😉 But I felt a sense of trust from her, that we would use the common sense and values that they’d instilled in us as we navigated those shelves.

My county has its own book banning efforts going on and has even made national news over this. I’m disturbed by these efforts. Even in an earlier (more conservative) time of my life, I expected to be the one to decide for my own family what was appropriate in media or books. For example, at the time I didn’t encourage Harry Potter books. We talked about why; I think most of them have now read some or all of the series. 🙂 I would hope each family could decide for their own children what they feel is appropriate and even discuss reasons why. Banning books for everyone in the county (or country) based on the viewpoints of a few or sometimes ONE person’s opinion is not something I am in favor of. Actually, I don’t support book banning even if the majority wanted to ban specific books.

Censorship and book banning shuts down opportunities to open discussions and to consider viewpoints different than one’s own. Removing books limits the availability of materials that may be beneficial to specific portions of the population. Not everyone (especially young people) can afford books that they would like to read and libraries have provided options not otherwise available.

It would likely be more beneficial to be aware of your own child’s use of social media, cell phones and internet use, instead of focusing on banning specific books for all.